The File of Dread in My Head

Every so often, usually after a Rueben sandwich and way too much caffeine, I have the ultimate insomnia anxiety attack. With regular insomnia I can get up and get chores done, write a novella, and/or paint several canvases.

Not so with the anxiety insomnia. This is when my brain is opened up (apparently by Freddy Krueger) and the only file that is selected and splayed open is the “File of Dread in My Head”. This is far worse than a reoccurring nightmare of some random humiliation you suffered as a child (wetting your pants, using the wrong staircase, forgetting your spelling words).

This is when your brain starts at your earliest awareness of being (for me that is around three years old) and meanders into every dark crevasse. Boney fingers with long fingernails pulling like taffy at every tangled deep regret. Every mistake is embossed. Every bad decision back lit like glass in an ancient cathedral. As C. S. Lewis says in “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”: “’This is where dreams—dreams, do you understand—come to life, come real. Not daydreams; dreams.’ There was about half a minute’s silence and then …the whole crew were…flinging themselves on the oars to row (away from Dream Island) as they had never rowed before.”

Not only does the “File of Dread in my Head” hold the things that I could not control, accidents, mishaps, or in my case dyslexic blunders, but the highlight reel includes all the things I have done that cannot be undone. Loved ones lost to me who cannot or will not communicate, money and opportunity squandered or lost. And so plays the reel. In historical order. I now have about 67 years of screw ups. Somehow none of the good stuff makes this final cut. I lie in bed as the scenes play across my eyelids.

I know, I know, a humor column has taken an abrupt high dive into a downward spiral. I mention the “File of Dread in My Head” for two reasons: 1) So you know you are not alone. You cannot live over a half-century in this world without a lot of trial and error and mistakes of such magnitude to startle even your teenaged self. We all have sorrow so deep it does not have words. And 2) I discovered that pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice. However, when you are in bed, exhausted, feeling alone, feeling miserable about things you cannot undo, if feels like you are under a blanket of concrete.

I implore you to rise up and take action. Fight off Freddy. Kick hard to the surface where the air and light is.

Go to the mirror and say, “I am vertical, I am breathing, and I can make better choices. I may never be able to heal the past, but I can heal someone’s future.” Be proactive: Write a note, a check, or a song.

Then consider my fast start solution, albeit a sort of hair-of-the-dog-that-bit-you solution, for that gastro-induced evil insomnia. Take one scoop of dark chocolate caramel salted ice cream with one scoop of raspberry sherbet on the side…walnuts and whipped cream at your discretion.

Sally Franz and her third husband live on the Olympic Peninsula. She has two daughters, a stepson, and three grandchildren. Sally is the author of several humor books including Scrambled Leggs: A Snarky Tale of Hospital Hooey and The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Menopause

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